The coronavirus pandemic is definitely the most challenging global event in recent history. Whole countries are on lockdown, and health workers and military personnel are working overtime to save lives and keep the virus at bay.
But aside from these champions, there are thousands of other individuals – truck drivers and grocery and drug store workers among them – who keep on working so millions can stay home and stop the spread of the virus.
In this global health crisis, health workers are often hailed as heroes, but specific workers bring vital materials and supplies crucial to efforts to curb the pandemic. Truck drivers deliver much-needed goods to hospitals, supermarkets, restaurants, and pharmacies.
Clerks keep stores open. Restaurant staff make sure that clients can still order their favorite meals. And sanitation personnel keep homes and streets clean. These workers are on the front line as well, and should be credited for their contribution to the coronavirus fight.
Crissy Becker of Maine’s Blevin Logistics, lamented the lack of recognition for truck drivers and other workers that are indispensable to efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
She stated, “I’m a mom. Instead of going home, I stayed out driving my truck sometimes 24 hours at a time, lately six weeks. So y’all got what you need. And there are hundreds of thousands more like me but instead of going home are running until we can’t see straight in our tracks.”
With most accolades given to medical staff and workers in other industries, Becker feels disrespected when thousands like her are not even acknowledged.
Other truck drivers agreed. Shannon Newton, a trucker from Little Rock, Arkansas, tweeted: “If you see a truck driver this week, please thank them. They are putting in long hours, under stressful circumstances, to ensure life’s essentials get restocked. Truck drivers are often taken for granted. But in times like these, we are reminded of their hero status.”
Trucks comprise majority of the vehicles on the road these days. Norm Wood of Quincy, Michigan, drives 1,200 miles a week to make deliveries. “I pick up on Tuesday and deliver on a Thursday in Lakeland. There’s only trucks on the road nowadays, but normally they’re full of cars. So that’s the way it is now.”
Jessica Hernandez, whose father-in-law works as a truck driver, shared, “These past weeks he has seen a high request for more hauls. They are the ones restocking stores with toilet paper, bottled waters, etc. He is also immunocompromised as many truck drivers are. They put their lives at risk for the sake of us.”
Twitter user @LashNolen added, “My grandpa has been a proud truck driver for over 40 years. The truth is truck drivers, like my grandpa, are the reason we continue to have access to basic necessities despite the worsening #COVID19 pandemic. Their decision to drive maintains our livelihood.”
Aside from longer hours, truck drivers have to contend with closed restaurants and rest areas, prompting officials to ask for support for tired and hungry drivers.
Garbage collectors have been overlooked as well. Aaron Meier of San Francisco tweeted, “I can’t work from home and my job is an essential city service that must get done. It’s a tough job, from getting up pre-dawn to the physical toll it takes on my body to the monotonous nature of the job, at times it’s hard to keep on going. Right now though, right now I am feeling an extra sense of pride and purpose as I do my work. I see the people, my people, of my city, peeking out their windows at me. They’re scared, we’re scared. Scared but resilient. Us garbagemen are gonna keep collecting the garbage… It’s gonna be ok, we’re gonna make it be ok.”
The tweet has since generated responses from more underappreciated essential workers, including bus drivers, postal workers, and pharmacy staff.
In such dire circumstances, these unsung heroes help make sure that life goes on. Fortunately, some states, such as Minnesota and Vermont, recognized their vital service and designated grocery store clerks and stockers as emergency workers. This gives them access to childcare so that they can work and keep shelves stocked with food and supplies.
Major companies are also stepping up. Southern California grocery chain Stater Bros announced it will temporarily raise its employees’ hourly wages by $2 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Stater Bros. CEO Pete Van Helden said, “Our employees are committed to helping our community during this difficult time. They are working long hours, and some have even forfeited vacations and days off to be there for our customers. We couldn’t be prouder of our team working together to support our customers and communities.” Other companies have done the same, including Target, which raised wages by $2 an hour until May 2.
While medical personnel attend to the sick, truck drivers, sanitation workers, and supermarket, drugstore and restaurant staff help keep the situation somewhat normal, which reduces stress and calms overwrought nerves. They too are key players in the fight against the pandemic, and deserve recognition and respect, as well.